I've lived in Edgartown all my life, surrounded by the rosa rugosa, or beach rose, which grows in abundance in the dunes at State Beach and in people's gardens and begins to bloom in early June. The smell of the blooming beach rose is heavenly; the essence of rose. The rosa rugosa must actually be the prototype for rose perfume, it is so quintessentially rose-ish. I have always known that the hips - or seed pods - were edible, that they were used for tea and preserves and were famous for being high in vitamin C, but it never crossed my mind to actually eat one off the bush, and it probably never would have except for the day a few years ago when I was at the beach with my elder son, who bent down, picked a hip and said, "Here, have you ever eaten one of these?" He then demonstrated for me - to my great surprise - the proper eating of a rose hip, which first involves finding a hip in the perfect stage of ripe-ness: reddish-orange and slightly soft to the touch.
The method of eating a rose hip can best be described as a miniature and more delicate form of eating corn-on-the-cob. You nibble gently around the small sphere - don't go too deep or you'll get a mouthful of dry, pithy seeds - and because the meat is such a small percentage of the overall seed pod - approximately 1/8" thick - you savor every bit of tart, tangy, and slightly sweet, waxy flesh.
That evening on the beach was my first taste of rose hips, outside of the tea - which can't compare - and I've been hooked ever since.
The rose hips are just now on the verge of being ripe; mostly orange, with a few that are red enough to eat - give them a few days and they will be perfect. Today, after my late-afternoon swim, I stood on the edge of the bike path and found a few ripe hips to nibble on before I biked home for supper.
Now, I've had gardens, and I've eaten my own produce, but there is something amazing - absolutely primal - about gathering and eating food in the wild; standing in a sand dune in my wet bathing suit under a Vineyard blue sky, looking out over the green marshes and beyond to Anthier's Pond, nibbling these sweet gems, their ordinarily exquisite taste enhanced by the salt on my lips and the warm summer wind in my face.
Who needs supper after a feast such as this?
|The rose hip|